Buddleia (Butterfly Bush) Provides a Profusion of Blooms for Your Summer Garden
Buddleias are effusive, summer blooming plants that we look forward to seeing every year. They are deciduous, low maintenance, woody shrubs that range in size from 3′ to 10′ tall. The traditional older species, such as Buddleia davidii tend to get very large. Luckily for the gardener with an urban yard, there are some new, smaller cultivars available that are the perfect size!
Buddleias are commonly known as butterfly bushes, as throughout the summer and into the fall, you will see their long lavender, purple, pink, cerise, or white panicles of flowers covered in butterflies of different species. No wonder, because the blooms have a sweet honey smell and are brimming with nectar. Hummingbirds will also fight each other for access to these treasured flowers!
If you want the butterflies to stay in your yard, be sure to plant other food for their caterpillars since they don’t feed on the leaves of Buddleias. The butterflies just feed on the nectar of the flowers. Plant Milkweed (Asclepias species), as they will be sure to keep those caterpillars nearby feeding on their leaves!
Buddleia davidii ‘Hot Raspberry’
‘Hot Raspberry’ is a more compact cultivar of the traditional butterfly bush, Buddleia davidii, with deep magenta flowers. The size makes it perfect for use in Bay Area gardens. This shrub quickly grows 3-5′ tall and 3′ wide. Blooming from mid-summer through late fall, these spectacular blooms provide food for pollinators for a long season. Works great in wildlife and cottage gardens as well as mixed sunny borders. USDA Zones 5-9.
Buddleia davidii ‘Dwarf Purple’
The ‘Dwarf Purple Butterfly Bush’ is a delightful violet-colored cultivar, providing a profusion of flowers from summer to fall. It is compact, growing 3-5′ tall and wide. It will produce more quality flowers every year and maintain its shape if cut back close to the ground. This also prevents the shrub from getting too woody. Great for mixed borders, planters, and cut flowers. Tolerant of clay soil. USDA Zones 5-9.
Planting and Care for Buddleias
Buddleias love the sun, so it’s best to pick a south or west facing site with no shade, or a sunny patio for planting in a container. These shrubs need 8 hours of direct sunlight a day. Buddleias require fertile, well-drained soils. They can succumb to root rot when planted in heavy soil, so it’s important to amend the soil with some compost and plant high. This means having the crown of the shrub an inch or so above grade to allow for water draining away towards the feeder roots.
Dig and amend the soil in an area twice the diameter of the plant container to allow the roots to spread outwards into amended soil. A slow release fertilizer can be sprinkled in with the back-fill to give the plant a good start, but in general they don’t require much fertilizer. You don’t want to encourage too much leaf growth at the expense of those beautiful flowers! Water regularly to establish but avoid over-watering in heavy clay soil. These shrubs are drought tolerant once established.
Pruning off spent blooms throughout the summer will encourage more flowers to develop. At the end of the flowering season, prune to keep these shrubs nice and compact, as left alone they can become straggly!